Here are some of my recent ones for the Sunday Tribune
Time For Heroes... The Best of The Libertines
The record label really is havin’ a giraffe releasing a Best Of for a band who had just two records. But it is testament to the talent of this band that those two albums yielded so many classic indie tracks. All of the tunes that made Pete Doherty, Carl Barat and co famous and infamous are here; 'Time For Heroes' and 'Up The Bracket' capture the exuberance of their early careers - all carefree ramshackling dueling guitars. The later material is of course more poignant, with the regretting 'What Became of the Likely Lads' and their finest moment 'Can't Stand Me Now'. But the overriding after-thought of this album is how lyricaly awesome the Libs were in their day, and how neither Doherty's Babyshambles nor Barat's Dirty Pretty Things has yet captured individually what they had as a team.
Download: Can't Stand Me Now, What Became Of The Likely Lads, Time For Heroes
Westlife are the pop equivalent of that female voice from the Marks and Spencer’s ad. This is not just a boyband, this is a sugar-soaked multi shmulti-platinum, glossy, sickly-full boyband. This record – their ninth in eight years – is unquestionably their worst to date. ‘When I’m With You’ sounds like an awful Daniel Bedingfield B-side, and the rest is equally and incredibly saccharine, forging carbon copy songs out of the exact same piano chord progressions, with both the lyrics and musical accompaniment making Mariah Carey seem like Alice Cooper. It’s completely devoid of the occasional soul and liveliness that was present for some of Westlife’s great pop songs. There is nothing here for anyone other than die-hard fans. It might be time to put these cash cows out to pasture.
G Corp Meets the Mighty Tree
Dub Plates From the Elephant House Volume Three
Dub is a bit out of fashion at the moment, what with the sinister sounds of South London's dubstep stealing the limelight. And more boring than other progressive offshoots is this reggae-heavy dub. There are some groovable moments here, and as a package it's not bad, but if you’re not in the mood, it’s all a bit boring and samey. You can imagine lying back and sipping some rum punch on the beach too it, but that's just it - nice background music, but not deep enough for dancing. A lot of the guest vocals actually take away from the tracks, notably the almost R ‘n’ B vibe of Messenger Douglas. Funnily enough, the record is accompanied by a Jamaican food cook booklet, which should be just what you need when the munchies set in after digesting 15 tracks.
Kill City Defectors
During the opening chords of Kill City Defector’s first song on the launch night of this record a massive brawl broke out in the basement of Eamonn Doran’s in Temple Bar. The band played on. It’s that rawkus line between dancing and scrapping that KCD walk. Here, they’ve transferred their frantic live performances of bongo-belting, funk-driven basslines and generally party-obsessed themes onto a debut album. Although there’s a slight dependence on similar hook structures and melodies, more than occasionally KCD break out of any structure, to come up with a sinister sonic surprise, notably on the spooky ‘Black Sheep’, all twisted synths and lyrics that speak of excess. Largely, it’s very danceable with some dark sentiments thrown in to mess with your mind. Drunken, rowdy, funky: all in all, it’s a pretty rocking record.
Download: ‘Your Mutiny’, ‘Black Sheep’, ‘So Lo’
Random Spirit Love
Can’t Canadian musicians just stay in one band? Thankfully not. Here’s the first really blatant Arcade Fire-influenced record associated with of Wolf Parade, Pony Up, Swan Lake and Frog Eyes (Canadians *heart* animals). It opens positively, with the jaunty ‘The Mending Of The Gown’, and there are plenty of nice ideas and quirky little hooks, but on occasions, the entire thing deconstructs so desperately that your ears begin to flinch and brain melt. Not the best thing to listen to on a hangover. ‘Stallion’ is a nod to the epic, and a solid one, and you end up wishing for more structure and less of the dubious loyalty to the avant garde.
Download: ‘The Mending of the Gown’, ‘Stallion’
Full Time Hobby
Indie blues, scratchy vocals, jamming rock. The Checks – a New Zealand five-piece – are not doing anything different, and what they are doing isn’t exceptional. The predictable bluesy chord changes and riffs that were exhausted by an indie-blues resurgence five years ago are still being trawled through down under it seems. Although ‘Terribly Easy’ offers some rather pleasant foot-tapping moments, the overall effect is one of slight boredom, apathy and convention. Predictably, they make up the spaces in between with oobligatory guitar solos devoid of hooks and melody, but full of hair-tossing hammer ons. It works better when they stretch their vibe towards Doors-like territory on ‘See Me Peter’. The Checks clearly work better with stoner rock, not the fashionable edge they are attempting to file on their sound.
Download: ‘Take Me There’, ‘See Me Peter’
Gavin Glass & The Holy Shakers
Gavin Glass & The Holy Shakers
You’d be hard pushed to find someone in Ireland today who can craft songs as expertly as Gavin Glass. He and his band have that ability to create songs that feel like they’ve been around forever. Robust melodies and excellent musicianship (namely some great slide guitar and backing singers) form the foundation for twelve rolling country and soulful tracks that are in equal parts touching, jaunty, soothing and imprint themselves on your brain long after the record is finished. Lovers of Ryan Adams’ ‘Heartbreaker’-era will fall for ‘Older Than My Years’ and ‘Ragdoll’ and fans of Duke Special will definitely find something to love in the excellent finishing track ‘Wrecking Ball’. Altogether, quite a triumph.
Download: ‘Older Than My Years’, ‘Sweet Ophelia’, ‘Wrecking Ball’
c. The Sunday Tribune